The Avengers (2012) was a tremendous success and established that our Marvel superheroes are here to stay. With phase 1 complete, it is now time to start building to the second Avengers movie, scheduled to arrive in 2015. And as we did way back in 2008, we turn to Iron Man to gets things started. But does Iron Man 3 accomplish that? Warning, if you read on there are spoilers so hold off until you’ve seen the movie. Well, we’ve warned you.
Going into Iron Man 3 expecting it to top The Avengers is a huge mistake that I fear many comic book movie fans are making. Let’s be honest, this movie has only two superheroes (Iron Man and War Machine aka The Iron Patriot) and we’re not dealing with an intergalactic invasion. What we are given is a very interesting look at how a once-normal guy named Tony Stark is dealing with the fact that he traveled through a wormhole to the other side of the galaxy. The sights he saw have forever left him changed and he has to deal with that before he can truly move forward. That’s what Iron Man 3 is really about. A superhero’s journey back from the brink. While this may be an idea best suited for the comics, I think Robert Downey Jr. and director Shane Black pull it off.
Our movie begins with a 1999 flashback sequence that establishes the character of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, Memento and Prometheus) as a disabled scientist trying to get the attention of Tony Stark, who is really more concerned with the beautiful scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige). Hansen seems interested in what Killian has to say but Tony dismisses him and leaves him waiting on a rooftop as the new year of 2000 rings in. Yes, this will come back to bite him later on.
Flash forward to now and we see a broken Tony Stark. He can’t sleep and his tinkering with new versions of the Iron Man suit has him up to Mark 42. His latest suit doesn’t quite work well, which goes with the fact that he himself isn’t firing on all cylinders. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is suffering and ever-present bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has moved on to work for Stark Industries. This Tony is having panic attacks and has him almost on the sidelines as a terrorist calling himself the Mandarin continues to become an ever-increasing threat. Rhodey (Don Cheadle) has rechristened himself as the Iron Patriot and appears to be the one the government has dealing with the threat. But things aren’t quite what they seem as these simple terrorists possess mutant-like powers. After Happy Hogan is severely injured while investigating a physically altered Aldrich Killian, Tony challenges the Mandarin and gives out his home address. Yes, not a good idea at all. Tony’s world comes crashing down even more as his home is destroyed and he is believed dead. This is a great sequence that brings Tony to his lowest point (and we get to see Pepper briefly become Iron Man, which I enjoyed).
This is the point where I admit the story waivered a little for me. We’re introduced to a little boy who really seemed unnecessary. He ultimately plays a role in helping Tony get his mojo back but I was just a little annoyed by him. I liked how they adapted the Extremis storyline. I also didn’t have a problem with the multiple Iron Men battle at the end. Now, the Mandarin storyline is going to upset the pure comic book fans. However, there’s no way they can do a 100% faithful adaptation in today’s world. But I do think they could have taken him in a different direction rather than turn him into a simple actor in a role. I like Ben Kingsley’s performance both as the Mandarin and as actor Trevor Slattery but I was a little let-down as they could have done more. The only aspects of the film I didn’t like was how quickly Pepper is cured of her Extremis powers and how Tony “fixes” the shrapnel near his heart. Yeah, a rushed wrap-up with an odd twist. I also felt that some of the comedy was too much. I enjoyed the more light-hearted approach but, at times, I wished they had taken things just a little more seriously.
Knowing that Iron Man 3 is more so about Tony Stark and that Iron Man isn’t nearly the superhero he was in the first two flicks or in The Avengers will help you enjoy this latest journey. It’s about a man dealing with the crazy events he experience and his road back. Iron Man 3 isn’t without its flaws but hardly the atrocity some would have you believe. It is my least favorite so far but not bad considering how much I liked the first two. It doesn’t really get things going for the next Avengers movie as much as a bridge between the two phases. We do get a post-credit sequence with Mark Ruffalo reprising his role as Dr. Banner. It’s funny and works to establish that our superheroes have stayed in touch after they saved the world. Definitely worth checking out but you must go in with your expectations in the right place.